CFO Hermann Malan: Makes his indelible mark on all cardinal points of Africa

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At the age of only 39, Hermann Malan boasts an impressive career as a CFO, having traversed various regions of Africa. His journey began in West Africa, extended to South Africa, and eventually led him to East Africa.

At the age of only 39, Hermann Malan boasts an impressive career as a CFO, having traversed various regions of Africa. His journey began in West Africa, extended to South Africa, and eventually led him to East Africa.

A pivotal phase of his career unfolded at Bull Atos Technologies in Gabon, where he served as the CFO and acting executive director for nearly nine years.

In 2016, he embarked on a new chapter by joining Atos IT Solutions in South Africa as the CFO, a role he dedicated five and a half years to. Then, in June 2021, he relocated to Kigali to assume the position of CFO at Canal+ Rwanda, a French-owned entertainment company specialising in cable television and movie theatre.

In a recent conversation with the CFO of East Africa, Hermann shared insights into his experiences across these diverse African regions:

CFO East Africa: What is the difference in working culture between West, South, and East Africa?
Hermann: In Rwanda, the working culture leans towards a top-down structure, where orders are typically issued from the highest authority and diligently executed. Here, individuals tend to adhere closely to directives from superiors and take initiative primarily when prompted by management. In French West Africa, a significant degree of bureaucracy is prevalent, necessitating the gathering and sharing of copious information before decisions can be made. On the contrary, in South Africa, a more flexible working culture prevails, with individuals demonstrating adaptability and delivering effectively within their designated parameters.

CFO East Africa: Many CFOs in East Africa complain about aggressive tax authorities; is this the case in Rwanda?
Hermann: Recently, I conducted a tax evaluation to assess the tax environment in Rwanda and its impact on companies. It is true that tax rates here are relatively high, but Rwanda distinguishes itself by maintaining a straightforward and comprehensible tax regime. Additionally, there is transparency regarding the allocation of tax revenue. The government has made significant investments in automated tax declaration platforms and has streamlined tax items into a few distinct categories, simplifying the process. Rwanda’s major initiatives, Visit Rwanda and Invest Rwanda, both benefit from an accessible and user-friendly tax policy, aligned with the objective of attracting tourists and increasing foreign direct investment.

CFO East Africa: What currently keeps you awake in your position as CFO?
Hermann: One of my ongoing challenges is the search for qualified individuals to join our finance team. I have been fortunate to have a capable team with diverse skills for handling the basics, and our focus over the past two years has been on upskilling our staff. Providing them with the necessary tools and support to excel in their roles is crucial.

CFO East Africa: How is life as an expatriate in Rwanda?
Hermann: Life as an expatriate in Rwanda is enjoyable. The country is known for its safety, devoid of the issues like racism that I encountered in South Africa and North Africa. This environment allows us to move freely and engage with people. Outside of work, I lead a fulfilling life, spending time with friends and family, and participating in social football games.

CFO East Africa: You became CFO at a relatively young age; how did you achieve this?
Hermann: My journey was propelled by the opportunities provided by the companies I worked for. My success can be attributed to my continuous learning and my willingness to make myself available whenever the company required it. I consistently demonstrate unwavering commitment to the company’s success, considering myself a true business partner. Even in my role as CFO, my mindset revolves around being a strategic partner to the business, ensuring we serve our customers strategically. In my current company, customer licence renewals significantly drive profitability, so my focus centres on the factors influencing these renewals, such as the cost of calls and the essential information needed for renewal discussions. While a CFO often has to take on the role of managing costs, it is equally important to think like a CEO-in-waiting, ready to step in and lead the company at a moment’s notice.

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